Red Flag: Trump Campaign Staffers May Be Receiving Double Payments, Other Perks

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign stop, Wednesday, March 30, 2016, in Appleton, Wis. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Say, is everybody up to speed on the corruption the Democrats are offering up, in the form of the matriarch of the Clinton Crime Family, who has, once again, managed to skate by another scandal?

It’s a good thing we have a more honorable option to offer our nation on the Republican ticket.

OH, wait…

CNBC is reporting that there are plenty of questionable practices to go around amongst the Clinton family, and their friends:

A series of filing anomalies point to a Donald Trump camp that is either unaware of campaign finance law, or is actively funneling donors’ cash to insiders, according to several experts interviewed by CNBC.

These “red flags,” as one expert deemed them, include a total lack of disclosure on which vendors staffers for the presumptive Republican nominee are paying, an “unusual” six-figure payout to campaign staff for nontaxable expenses and what appeared to be double reimbursements for some employees’ expenses.

While Trump spokeswoman, Hope Hicks has said that the report is self-explanatory, others outside of the campaign still have questions.

“In my view, the situation is significant if (what) we are seeing is a pattern that reflects serious problems with the campaign,” Larry Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center who also worked for 13 years as Federal Election Commission general counsel, told CNBC. “If the report is speaking for itself, it’s not saying anything coherent.”

The Campaign Legal Center is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that works with the courts and federal agencies to enforce and defend campaign finance laws. The center recently filed a complaint with the FEC against the Trump campaign for its solicitation of money from foreign nationals and politicians.

The confusion seems to be with FEC filings, in regards to vendors being paid by staffers out of their own pockets, who then later receive reimbursements. When these reimbursements are made, the name of the vendors used is required to be listed. That’s not happening with the Trump campaign, apparently.

“Just like the FEC informed the campaign in November: When the campaign pays a single vendor more than $200 during the election cycle, the name of the vendor should be disclosed, even if a staff person is making the purchase on behalf of the campaign,” Noble said.

He added that as far as he could tell, “there is no indication of who the vendors are for the in-kind services.”

Is this just more Trump incompetence, or has his close association with the Clintons influenced him in more ways than one? His defenders will chime in that this is just because he’s a “businessman” and he knows how to work the books, and that somehow, his experience as a crooked businessman will make him a competent and trustworthy president, but nobody rational is buying it.

Another question raised by the lack of specific payment descriptions is the campaign’s reimbursements for staffers’ “mileage” — payments which are not taxed. If those figures provided by the Trump team are actually for personal vehicle depreciation and expenses, experts said they point to a wholly unrealistic amount of travel. If the “mileage” payments are for air or some other measurement of travel, they said, it would be a potentially never-before-seen use of the system.

Since its July 2015 quarterly filing, the Trump campaign has disbursed 239 nontaxed mileage payments to 82 individuals for a total of $237,555.30, and those payments “raise a lot of questions,” according to Noble.

Paid campaign staff often rent cars when travelling, Noble said, so these payments suggest that people are driving their own cars and driving a tremendous number of miles every day.

A Heather Fox, for example, is named as a Mississippi field operative for Trump, but her address is listed as the New York headquarters for Trump. She received a single, nontaxable payment of $4,269.45 on May 19, 2016, yet no record of actual miles were included with the filing.

The IRS pays 54 cents a mile, which equates to over 8,000 miles driven for a state operative.

According to CNBC research, the most mileage payments were given to Trump advance staffer Gavin Smith. He received 12 payments totaling $8,114.29 between July 2015 and May 2016. The most money for mileage went to one Mark Lloyd (whose name matches the campaign’s Virginia director, but whose address was also listed as the New York headquarters) at $13,862.

Again, money is piling up, but there are no definitive records to account for the details of the payments.

There’s also the appearance of double payments from campaign funds for staffers.

A total of $23,315 in campaign contribution refunds were given to Trump staffers between his February and June FEC filings.

For example, New Hampshire State Director Matthew Ciepielowski filed $2,068.23 for “in-kind” office supplies and was subsequently reimbursed in May. But in a second filing for individual campaign refunds, Ciepielowski was refunded for $2,068 (the only difference between the two entries was the dropped change in the contribution refund).

This is a lot, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The question now becomes, how will Trump explain it away, and does he actually believe that he will receive the same immunity from justice that his friend Hillary has received?